Learning Outcome Three: Audience responses and behaviourIn order for media products to be successful, they have to be able to make their target audiencebelieve in their product and respond correctly to it. Music video’s do this by having the artistexpressing meaningful messages through their lyrics which the audience can relate too. Advertiserssend out powerful messages through their adverts (usually about why their product is a must have,or why their product is unique and better from other similar products) which captivate the audienceand make them think about the product. The intention of a documentary is for it to be informative,so that the audience watching it can be informed and learn about important matters or facts thatthey may not have known about or known about incorrectly.A brilliant example of how media can control its audience’s behaviour and response would be anarticle that appeared on the news not long ago. This article was released a week after the Bostonbombings. The article talked about how the news media in general these days only informed theiraudience about big events going on in the world such as the Boston bombings, which receivedmassive media coverage for the world to see. The article then compared this to the fact that eachyear in America alone, thousands of youths die from knife and gun crime and the media barelycovers it. This example shows how the news media in this case controls the audience’s behaviourand response by showing the audience big news stories, rather than everything that is happening inthe world. It makes sense why they do this though, “Bad news sells more than good news”.Another great example of how media can control the responses and behaviour of its audienceswould be North Korea. North Korea blocked out the rest of the world’s media (most internetwebsites such as YouTube and TV and news media). They then created their own TV shows and news(allot made up) to mould their audience (North Koreas) population into supporting North Korea’spropaganda which is constantly aired. In a way they are being brain washed by North Korea’s media.This example shows how media can be used as a dangerous tool.Documentaries main priority is to inform and get a response (audiences concluding and deciding forthemselves at the end of the documentary) from the audience. Documentaries main functions aretoo inform, or give the audiences an understanding of a matter. Documentaries usually are nearlyalways informative informing their audiences of matters (usually negative impact matters, togenerate more popularity and a bigger audience) going on in the world or teaching facts to anaudience (for example, Planet Earth which teaches people about Earth).Unlike news media, documentaries usually stick to reliable facts when they are discussing mattersand don’t exaggerate about things which is what a lot of news media does. You do occasionally get adocumentary that (usually having a debate about a matter, for or against) is biased more, orcompletely towards one side of the argument which is an unfair thing to do and is often criticised bythe audience. In general though most documentaries stick to truth, facts aren’t exaggerated andaren’t biased. This is why the audience enjoys them, because it’s teaching you and also giving youthe facts without exaggeration or lies. It makes the audience feel more comfortable to know theyaren’t being messed around with the information they are being told.There are three key theories which explain how an audience use and interpret the media industry. Iwill discuss each one below in detail.
Uses and Gratification:Uses and gratifications theory attempts to explain the uses and functions of the media forindividuals, groups, and society in general. There are three objectives in developing uses andgratifications theory: 1) to explain how individuals use mass communication to gratify their needs.“What do people do with the media”. 2) To discover underlying motives for individuals’ media use.3) To identify the positive and the negative consequences of individual media use. At the core ofuses and gratifications theory lies the assumption that audience members actively seek out the massmedia to satisfy individual needs.We can also use it to1:Cognitive needs, including acquiring information, knowledge and understanding;(the keyreason for and audience to watch a documentary)2:Affective needs, including emotion, pleasure, feelings;3:Personal integrative needs, including credibility, stability, status;4:Social integrative needs, including interacting with family and friends; and5:Tension release needs, including escape and diversion.Hypodermic Needle:The theory suggests that the mass media could influence a very large group of people directlyand uniformly by ‘shooting’ or ‘injecting’ them with appropriate messages designed to trigger adesired response.Both images used to express this theory (a bullet and a needle) suggest a powerful and directflow of information from the sender to the receiver. The bullet theory graphically suggests thatthe message is a bullet, fired from the "media gun" into the viewers "head". With similarlyemotive imagery the hypodermic needle model suggests that media messages are injectedstraight into a passive audience which is immediately influenced by the message. They expressthe view that the media is a dangerous means of communicating an idea because the receiver oraudience is powerless to resist the impact of the message. There is no escape from the effect ofthe message in these models. The population is seen as a sitting duck. People are seen as passiveand are seen as having a lot media material "shot" at them. People end up thinking what theyare told because there is no other source of information.
Passive and Active Audience Consumption:An active audience is one that actively engages with the text. They do not simply acceptevery media message. They question what they see and develop their own interpretation ofa media product based on their life experiences, education, family and cultural influences.‘Bottom up’ theories generally assume an active audience. Theories such as “Uses &Gratification” and “Postmodernist theory” assume that audiences are active.A passive audience does not actively engage with a media text. A passive audience is onethat does not question the message that the media is sending and simply accepts themessage in the way the media outlet intended.‘Top down’ theories of media influence tendto assume that audiences are passive. Theories such as “Bullet/Hypodermic” and “AgendaSetting Function” assume audiences are passive.The uses and gratification theory applies to almost every documentary. Nearly everydocumentary’s aim is to educate and inform its audience of a matter. Cognitive needs(Acquiring knowledge, information and understanding) are within the “uses andgratification” theory relates best to documentaries. For example, BBC’s Blue planet wouldfall into this theory because it aims to show and inform (teach) the audience.A great example for the Hypodermic needle would be North Korea. North Korea whoseparates themselves from most of the world has to keep their population under control, tostop a rebellion. To do this they block out any kind of media contact with outside of NorthKorea (TV, Newspapers, internet radio ect…). North Korea then has control over their ownmedia so they can constantly air propaganda and control what is aired and what is not. Thisis a massive example of the Hypodermic needle theory because North Korea are pumping asingle message (North Korea are the “good guys” and the rest of the world are “bad”) at aconstant rate into the viewer’s brain. In a way they are being brain washed.